It's taken me nearly a week to figure out how to review Sucker Punch, because there's so much going on in it and my thoughts won't gel. I'm sorry in advance for any lack of eloquence or coherence in this review.
Let's start here: I loved it. I'm going to watch it at least once more in the theater and when it comes out I will pay full price for the DVD.
This is not a movie about girls in sailor outfits killing giant robots with katanas, or about baby prostitutes decked out with guns. It is also not about girls whose sole purpose in the movie is to titillate the male audience. It is not about sex, period. It is about fighting for control of one's own destiny. It is about escape from the system that has been built to enslave nice little girls and fetishize them. It is about reforming reality around one's own needs and desires, in order to cope with whatever it is that is too big for you to handle directly. When you need most desperately to escape being raped and lobotomized in a mental institution full of morally corrupt men, perhaps the most effective method is to re-envision the asylum as a bordello in which you and your comrades fight your way out every time you dance, because when you dance all of you become badass women warriors armed to the teeth, with air support and a series of inhuman enemies. Maybe no other way will get you through. Maybe without all those layers of self-deception and self-manipulation, you would just be a scared little girl waiting in a cell. Maybe they're just your way of getting in touch with yourself, with the strength you keep in the core of you body or the depth of your mind.
It's hard to be strong. It's hard to keep faith with yourself, to hold out hope, to put yourself out there instead of wilting. It's even harder when it's assumed that you can't maintain your strength, that no matter what eventually you will fail. It's damn hard work, being strong. It's hard work being a girl, every second of every day proving your strength. People like to talk about how hard it is proving yourself to the people around you. But that's no problem at all compared to proving yourself to yourself. Doubt is easy. Doubt is seductive. It's so simple just to give up and admit to the weakness that deep inside you fear is all you have. Proving over and over that that weakness is nothing compared to the depth of strength you possess -- well, that takes time. Time in which you must sustain yourself, must persist, must overcome each obstacle (every one of them bigger than the last), must keep that faith in yourself, must hold strong. Until it's enough. Until you believe yourself when you think, "I can do this." Until it doesn't matter what anybody else says.
And maybe it helps to think of yourself as a badass ninja in a sexy costume striking down dragons and zombies and robots -- invincible. Men are vulnerable to sexy costumes, and that makes sexy costumes empowering. (And in the context of this movie, renegotiating the power dynamic of a uniform the characters are forced to wear in the asylum really is winning a power struggle.)
Sucker Punch brings the fight to you. That's what this whole film is about: when any force threatens your soul, you must fight it or die. Haul out your arsenal, put on your lipstick, and kick some ass. As the films says right before the credits roll: "You already have all the weapons you need. Now fight."
For another Sucker Punch review I really like, go here.